Thursday, 27 February 2014

"Staying Strong": The~Changing~Names~Of~A~Memoir.

Changes happen for one reason or another. My Memoir has been a stop, start, stop, start again story for at least 10 years due to the pain and deep emotion that arose every time I tried to continue writing it. Consequently it has gone through many, many re-writes in 10 years, including cover changes and title changes, but now as it's close to being primmed and polished I can finally say I'm happy with what I've created.

Image by Honou

For at least 8 years the story was called "My Story" because I had no name for what it was. Then I was undecided among "I Died a Little Death", "Freak Out" and "Frozen by Fear", all suitable and descriptive titles. But they weren't quite right and I eventually settled on "Broken". Ahhh, the relief of having that sorted. However.

I had finished the first draft about 6 months ago and not looked at the book until 4 weeks ago, I was writing other books, and it's good writing policy to leave big projects for a while then go back to them. On going over the memoir, I very recently had an 'Ahhaa' moment when all things previously not quite right suddenly become crystal clear.

The clarity I received provided a new and final title that is perfect. " Staying Strong". As often happens, a book's evolution encounters mutation and diversification - it has been 10 years in the creation after all - but the more I primmed and polished "Broken" the more I understood how much I wanted to portray the strength in me, in all of us, not the weakness which "Broken" offered up. Although I was writing about a personal experience and did not perceive it as a weak period in my life, I none the less realised that having (a nervous breakdown with associated) panic attacks, anxiety and depression was frequently perceived as a weakness.

After I finished the first draft I found this:

 "Depression, anxiety and panic attacks are NOT a sign of weakness. They are signs of having tried to remain strong for way too long."
Author unknown

I knew immediately that the burn out and breakdown I had experienced was a direct result of having remained strong in a non-sustainable situation for WAY too long. Cogs began to shift in my brain. I hadn't seen the breakdown from this perspective before and it gave me new belief in myself strength.

Staying strong interestingly had different purposes before, during and after my breakdown. It acted against me when I was under extreme stress by taking me to breakdown, then down the dark road of depression. Yet it kept me afloat when I was at risk of giving up all hope of survival, of sinking, of possibly taking my own life. Of course, the nature of staying strong under each circumstance was unique.

Staying strong was always a choice, but now it is a concious and positive choice, without the stresses of the past. It means I and my memoir have come full circle. 

And having said that, it's currently close to peer review, if anyone is interested?...please contact me :)

Here are 2 exerpts for you. This first piece is from the INTRODUCTION.
It has been 16 years since events brought me to the reason for writing this book, about the day my life changed direction. I first started writing the story at least 10 years ago, but never managed to journey far down the dangerous and difficult road to its end. Going over everything again was always painful and depressing, so the story stopped and was forgotten. It would be restarted, but with a different beginning, many times, and often only in my head. I did not believe in myself enough, let alone my ability to write a book. But at least I had kept copies, for sometime, maybe, when it could grow into a real thing.

That ‘thing’, this book, has finally been born. I could now write the story reasonably comfortably, without the pain, the sickness in my stomach or the depression that always rose with earlier attempts. And it was time. Remaining tucked away in my shadow world where embarrassing and shameful events were kept was no longer right.

What was this story about and what was such a big deal you might ask?

Well, in March of 1998, I completely burnt out and had a nervous breakdown.

It officially started on the morning of Thursday 12th of March at about 8am when I had the first of what-were-to-be many severe, full-blown panic attacks. Until December I suffered daily with extreme anxiety and became deeply, clinically depressed. I was a complete mess, unable to function ‘normally’. For 9 long months, with my life held in limbo, I lived life in a slow motion bubble. Imagine that.

Those months, and the rough and uphill climb to wholeness afterwards defined the darkest and most challenging period of my life. But life had to go on. I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t know, while in that state, if I would be able to stop myself from ending my life. What if I was I capable of tricking myself into ending it?"...

And this from the first chapter COUNTDOWN

..."In January 1996 I shifted with my family to the small coastal Queensland town of Yeppoon...Within 12 months however, my life was very hectic, stressful and full of emotional turmoil. I was forever busy, going from one activity to the next, always “up”, moving, never relaxed. I had lots on my plate. I had issues, but I didn’t have the time, the energy, or desire to deal with them.

“I’ll deal with it later,” are the famous last words I used about everything immediately un-resolvable. I always intended to deal with ‘it’ and ‘things’ later, but by now ‘things’ had stockpiled.

You see, I knew I would go into overwhelm if I stopped to address some important issues and so I simply didn’t. I couldn’t, I no longer knew how. They were personal. Keeping going, staying strong seemed the only option, so I kept going. I’m referring to my marriage. It had been in trouble for some time and sadly it was getting worse. I had become an emotional wreck, my self-esteem had plummeted and I was living on the edge whilst pretending to the kids and the world that everything was fine."...

Next week I'll be posting  on Wednesday March 5th with the Insecure Writers Support Groups' monthly Blog Hop. My post will appear here, but I may not post next Friday (Thursday for some of you :))

Until then, have a great weekend,

Leonie, Winnie and Hunny

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